on 18 July 2013
The story opens with a rather tipsy, seventeen-year-old Rose Balfour flirting quite outrageously with Alton, Earl of Sinclair to the point that he believes she is eager for more than a mild flirtation or a kiss. Even though Rose has been infatuated with Sinclair for some time, when he finally does kiss her, she is so overwhelmed by the feelings he evokes and by the knowledge that she's behaving improperly, that she pushes him away with such force that he falls into a fountain. Needless to say, the sight of the handsome, elegant, and somewhat aloof earl sitting among the ornamental lily-pads is one that causes a great deal of amusement among the guests at the party, and it's not long before Sinclair (or "Sin" for short) has acquired some less than complimentary epithets, the foremost of which is that of "Lord Fin."
Following this incident, Rose is immediately bustled away into the country and away from gossip, while Sin, still smarting from the indignity, promptly launches himself into all manner of hedonistic pursuits while vowing revenge upon the young woman who embarrassed him so horrendously in front of society.
Six years later, and determined to help Sin's mother, who now despairs of seeing her only son married, the Duchess of Roxburghe schemes to get him to attend her next house-party. Normally he would avoid such a thing like the plague, but the Duchess lets slip the fact that she has discovered the identity of the young woman for whom he has been searching for the past six years - and knowing that, nothing could keep him away.
What follows is a light-hearted and frequently funny regency-era version of a screwball comedy, as Sin and Rose repeatedly go toe-to-toe with each other. Both are stubborn and neither likes to lose, but there's no denying the intense physical attraction they feel; and it's just as strong as it was six years ago. Sin's goal is revenge - which he decides will take the form of a seduction. Undaunted by his declaration of intent, Rose is equally determined to resist him, and their games of one-upmanship are both funny and full of sexual tension.
The dialogue sparkles, and it's not just Rose and Sin who get all the best lines - many of them go to the duchess, who is an endearing and yet utterly determined lady who comes off as a kind of fairy godmother. I thought Alison Larkin had a really deft touch when it came to the humour in the dialogue, and I really liked the way she handled the interplay between a character's thoughts and his or her speech.
Sin and Rose are a well-matched and attractive couple whose mutual pig-headedness threatens their happiness but fortunately, her ladyship is at hand to give them a shove in the right direction when it is most needed. I have to give a special mention here to the proposal scene, which was, I thought, an especially nice touch that rounded things off perfectly.
I enjoyed Alison Larkin's narration very much. Her voice is quite light in tone and her narration is well-paced. I found her range (in terms of pitch) to be a little limited for my taste, which meant that her male voices were not particularly deep, but instead, she portrays the men by using accent and tone. MacDougall the butler is a very proper, rather sardonic Scotsman; for Sin, she adopts a slightly deeper pitch which sometimes gives his voice a faintly gravelly quality and Monroe has rather a nasal, very upper-crust accent and clipped manner of delivery. Despite her limitations as regards pitch, I thought Ms Larkin did a good job in differentiating the characters, and I especially liked her interpretations of the duchess and her companion, Charlotte.
How to Capture a Countess may not win any awards for the originality (or otherwise) of its plot, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable story, with attractive protagonists, plenty of humor and sexual tension by the bucket-load.
This review originally appeared at AudioGals - [...]